“Leadership is disappointing your own people at a rate they can absorb.”  (Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky)

I heard this definition last week.  It immediately made sense to me.  There’s no sugar-coating leadership.  Often leadership, especially in a church setting, is messy.

Here’s a paragraph on the topic that cuts to the core of leadership:

When you stand before people and tell them that in order to accomplish a mission, they have to change, adapt, give up something for the greater good, work with those whom they don’t like or compromise on something that they care about they get mad.  They get really mad.  And mostly, they get mad at you.


I think about all the things that Jesus said in the Gospels.  Often we like to focus on the nice things that Jesus says and skip the uncomfortable parts.  But those uncomfortable parts are important. It is in those uncomfortable statements of Jesus that we are called to change, to be different, to be more fully who God intended us to be.

And often people don’t want to hear that.  It’s much easier to put up a facade – a facade that tells everyone that I’m ok, I’m doing well, I have my act together.  Except I don’t.  And neither do you.  We are all broken and sinful.  In the Lutheran liturgy we start the service with a confession and forgiveness.  We confess that we are captive to sin and can not free ourselves.  This is powerful.  And it’s often the part people want to speed through.

Acknowledging before a whole bunch of people who you are broken and captive is not fun.  It’s uncomfortable.  We don’t want to admit that we are broken and enslaved.  We don’t want to admit that the facade that we created is false.  We don’t want to admit that our Facebook profile is just the highlight of a good moment in life – but it’s not our life 24/7.  We have to keep up with the Jones’ after all and their facade too.

Leadership is disappointing your own people at a rate at which they can absorb.  Leadership is being vulnerable to share how broken you are.  Leadership is sharing truth about ourselves and our world.  Leadership is saying stuff that people do not want to hear about.  Leadership is exposing injustice for what it is.

Leadership is also about empowering others, especially when you’d rather do something yourself.  Leadership is about moving the spotlight off of yourself to others so that whatever you are leading can thrive.  Leadership is about getting out-of-the-way.  Leadership is about more people engaging in the life and work of the church.  Leadership is about discipleship.

And none of that is easy.  But it is worth it.